Thursday, February 03, 2011

Agfa Portrait XPS 160


 This particular film is no longer in production, so you'll have to excuse this post for a certain level of sentimentality as Agfa Portrait was probably my favourite ever film.

I think the film was first introduced in the early 1990's a part of the 'Agfa Triade' which consisted of three emulsions Ultra 50 which was a high contrast & saturation film, Optima 100 which had a normal saturation and Portrait 160 which had a lower contrast and saturation. Later they added an Optima 200 as well and dropped the 'Triade' moniker.
Here is a schematic of the layer structure:

Agfa Portrait had a very natural colour rendition and because of its lower contrast it captured white wedding dress detail even in the brightest of conditions. I also remember it having excellent latitude to over exposure with detail in overexposed areas easily recoverable four stops over, it couldn't be underexposed I'd say half a stop at the most.

I used this film mainly for weddings where the aforementioned detail in the whites coupled with very nice skin tones nearly always gave great results. I think it is one of the most natural colour films I've ever used.

Cool natural tones
I found a small amount of this film which expired 2007 on a well known auction site and just had to go on a little trip down memory lane and have had fun revisiting an old favourite.
I had forgotten the peppermint flavoured 120 roll seal :)

© Photo Utopia 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Found Film — 127 Kodacolor VR200

First a confession, I was given this film about 5 years ago, promptly put it in a draw and forgot about it.
It is a Kodak VR200 in 127 format dating from somewhere between 1982-90. I think the Kodak VR range were the first to use the T grain type emulsions, and were superseded by the Gold range in the late 1980's
Often people who find old colour films decide to process in B&W as either the process is no longer available or they think the colours will have faded anyhow.
As I have been processing my own C41 I decided there would be no harm loading up the old film, and as you can see by the following images they aren't too bad considering the film was loose wound and at least 20 years since exposure.
This looks familiar, probably East coast-possibly Sheringham or Cromer

It looks like a bed and breakfast holiday on the East Anglian coast, probably taken with a folding camera. 

© Photo Utopia 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Processing Your First Colour Negative Film

Its not as hard as you think!
In these days of ever shrinking film market we often find ourselves looking for a good photographic lab for colour work which can sometimes be hard. So if you can't find one why not have a go yourself? There are some excellent kits now available from Tetenal, Rollei and Fuji-Hunt.

 Quite a few of you will already be processing your own B&W so already own  most of the equipment needed.
Hold on I hear you say-isn't colour processing complicated?

Processing colour negative film is as easy as B&W in fact in a lot of ways it is easier. The equipment you need for C41 negative is exactly the same as B&W with the exception of the thermometer which will need to go up to 40°C.
As the development time is the same for all C41 films 3 mins and 15 seconds the only hard part is keeping the developer at the standard 37.8°C ± 0.2°C
My method for keeping the developer is to use a water bath which I heat with a cheap fish tank heater which keeps the solution at the required temperature.
I use a 1L C41 kit which has three baths, Developer, Bleach/fix and Stabiliser (final rinse)

Here is my method:
I place the developer bleach-fix and stabiliser in the plastic washtub which I then fill with warm water at about 35°-40°C (around 100°F) I then switch on the tropical fish tank heater which maintains the temperature.

Then load the tank as you normally would with B&W film.

The chemicals need time to come up to temperature and stabilise, so put your thermometer in the developer bottle and keep an eye on it, the C41 developer is rated at 37.8°C (100°F) but half a degree either side won't matter.
Once up to temp, fill a clean container with water at 38-39°C this water will be used for  pre-soaking the film, which will help to keep the developer up to temperature by warming the tank and ensure the developer goes evenly over the film.
I pre-soak for two mins and while I do this I get ready my timer ( a watch with second hand is fine) and a pen and paper to note the passing time.

Pour out the pre soak water (it will be a coloured liquid, which is normal) and slowly pour in your developer (should take 15 seconds) and start your timer and initial agitation of about 15 seconds-tap the tank to dislodge bubbles.

Important Note: It is easier to use the agitation stick with some models like the Patteson System 4 you can keep the thermometer in the tank by placing in the centre of thestick. If you use inversion method after the initial agitation the air inside expands so you'll need to crack off the lid to let the warm air out-or risk leaks!

Keep an eye on the time as agitation should be every 15 seconds either by 2 inversions or twists of the agitation stick. During this time I prepare another jug of water at 35°-39°C which I use as a non standard wash to prolong bleach life.
The developer time for fresh solution is 3 minutes 15 seconds, so after the 3 min time take off the lid and slowly pour your developer back into the holding bottle(a funnel can help here), then put in my previously prepared first wash (you can use acid stop bath) which should be at the same  temperature (within a degree or two) as your processing solutions.

Agitate the wash/stop for 15-30 seconds then empty. Next pour in your Bleach-fix which should be over 35°C (as close to you developer temperature as possible) and agitate for a full minute then tap.
Remember to release the air if you use the lid and inversion

Prepare another jug of wash water at least 35°C.
Further agitations at 30 second intervals until the 6 min bleaching time is completed (you can't really over bleach-fix.
When finished pour the bleach into its holding tank and pour in your warm wash water and agitate for 1 minute, pour out the wash then re-fill with another warm wash and repeat until you've done this step five times.
Next pour in your stabiliser-don't agitate! just leave for one minute before taking out your film and hanging to dry.
N.B The stabiliser is the final bath, no further washes or wetting agents should be used.

That's it you're done! I actually find it easier than B&W, give it a go practice on cheap film/test shots until you're confident, but colour is nothing to worry about.
Here is an image developed from a Tetenal kit:

Developer is the most critical step, keep the temperature as close to the target 38°C as you can. Developer times should be extended by 15 second after every 5 films, a 1L kit should do 12-15 films.
If you process a lot of 400-1600 films take the lower figure of 12 as they exhaust the developer faster-you kit should have more information.
 Quite a few of these kits say "for rotary processors' but can quite easily be used for normal tanks as long as agitation is given every 10-15 seconds (not all commercial processors have constant agitation)
Developer changes colour from honey-gold to pinkish brown this is normal, in well sealed bottles should last 4-6 weeks its main enemy is air.
Keep developer away from all other chemicals especially bleach if you contaminate the developer with bleach-discard it (follow your countries laws about disposal)
Bleach likes air just before use, in fact commercial labs pump air though the bleach to condition it- I shake my bottle before use to get air in the solution.
Extend the bleach time to 10mins after you've processed 10 films.
Stabiliser will go from clear to pink during use-this is normal.

©Photo Utopia 2011

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ensign Ful-Vue

The Ensign Ful-Vue is an English box camera manufactured by Houghton-Butcher. Early pre-war versions were simply a box with a larger than normal viewfinder. The copmpany re-designed the camera in 1946 giving it an 'aerodynamic' look which still looks quirky today. The version above is from about 1950 and is a Ful-Vue II with a flash socket just to the right of the lens.

The body is made of pressed steel making the camera robust but quite light, the viewfinder is a separate unit also made of pressed steel. The shutter housing is made of a Bakelite type material held on by three screws making shutter and lens removal easy (more later)
The left hand side has a locking knob which when twisted to 'unlock allows the right hand side panel to be removed for film loading/retrieval.

Inside is a baffle and film holder, the Ful-Vue takes standard commonly available 120 film and has a red window for viewing frame advance.
All simple stuff, one shutter speed and aperture mean little control coupled with a simple lens that has three position scale focus 2, 5-3 and 6 to (I'm assuming feet).

My camera when it arrived had what I call a 'lazy shutter' in other words it had an intermittent non firing, but armed with some help from a Flickr member 'Full-Vue' I was able to take apart and clean the shutter.
After cleaning and re-assembly the shutter works fine, I didn't lubricate the simple mechanism I just gave it a polish.
In the winter in the UK with a box camera you really need a 400ISO film as I'm betting the shutter is about 1/60 and the lens probably f8 or 11.

The above was shot on a very dull cold day on Fortepan 400 developed for 1hr in Rodinal 1:100 stand.
I like the camera for its 'quirkyness' and simplicity, the big viewfinder looks great almost like a TLR in size and brightness, and for the times when you want a simple box with a lens-fun!

©2011 Photo Utopia